Raby Castle’s magnificent Walled Gardens are a peaceful haven for Raby’s visitors as they amble along its well-kept paths, watch the butterflies and bees busy in the borders, listen to the melodic birdsong and take in some remarkable panoramas across the Castle and Deer Park.

The ambience is always restful yet is constantly changing through the seasons, particularly in the vibrant Spring and Summer months when the colours and vistas alter almost on a daily basis.

Throughout lockdown our garden team worked hard to keep the gardens looking their best, ready for visitors to enjoy. We hope those of you who have not yet been able to visit us since we reopened will enjoy this video tour which gives a fabulous bird’s eye view of our gloriously peaceful gardens.

The History of the Gardens

The gardens at Raby date back to the Middle Ages when the plants grown here would have provided food for cooking and medicines for treating common ailments. A formal garden was established much later, in the mid 18th century.

Our committed gardeners nurture every plant and take great care to maintain the historic features of the Gardens. The walls were all built using locally sourced hand-made bricks and remain a key feature of the Gardens, along with the two fine old yew hedges and ornamental pond. Other features include the Conservatory, rose gardens, formal lawns and informal heather and conifer garden.

Look out for the White Ischia Fig, brought to Raby in 1786, which still survives in its specially built house and bears fruit every year.

The East Garden contains the main herbaceous border and various species of tree within the lawns, including a Tulip tree. In the summer months the spectacular rambling Wedding Day Rose, with its large clusters of creamy white roses, is in full bloom.

The Walled Gardens are open seasonally and our Annual Pass holders often tell us how much they appreciate being able to visit on a regular basis so that they can see the seasons change.

With plenty of places to sit and relax and lots of space to enjoy a socially distanced walk with family or friends, we look forward to welcoming you soon.

The Walled Gardens and Deer Park are open daily from 10am to 4pm. During the summer months we hold occasional Summer Lates, when the Park and Gardens open in the evenings, with candlelight and soft music in the Walled Gardens. Find out more about Summer Lates.

Our next Summer Late in the Park and Gardens will be held on Saturday 11th July from 6pm to 10.30pm. Tickets are limited. Book now.


Back in the 1600’s a young and adventurous Henry Vane, ancestor of Raby Castle’s current Lord Barnard, emigrated to join the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Our curator Julie Biddlecombe-Brown reveals who he was, why he went and what happened next.

First, a bit of background about the Vane family at the time

In 1626 Henry Vane the Elder, MP and official in the Royal Household, bought Raby Castle for the princely sum of £18,000.  His marriage to Frances Darcy brought the wealth that secured his rise in Court and should have guaranteed a life of relative ease for their children. This was not to be for his first-born.

Henry Vane the Younger had a remarkable life and witnessed events that shaped nations and the world. His life ended in the Tower of London in 1662, described by Charles II as “…too dangerous a man to let live …”.

We’re going to explore the life of the twenty-something Henry, in Puritan New England, and how his legacy can still be seen today  

Henry Vane the Younger was born in Essex in 1613, the eldest of eleven children. Less than one hundred years after the break from Rome, the early 17th century was a time of religious turmoil. Henry was a man of strong religious convictions and by his mid-teens he had made the conscious decision that his faith would play a central part in his life; following his conscience and devotion to God.

After completing his education at Magdalen College, Oxford, he travelled in Europe, where he visited the intellectual Protestant hubs of Geneva and Leiden.  His travels continued during his late teens as an aide to the Ambassador at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II. On his return to England his prospects seemed bright and it appeared certain that he would follow his father’s career in the royal household. But the young Henry had other plans.

So, what inspired him to make his long and dangerous Trans-Atlantic journey?

He had never lost the spiritual resolve of his earlier teenage years and became increasingly disillusioned with what he viewed as the restrictive ceremonies and practices of the Church of England. Henry looked to the Puritan colonies of the New World as a kind of utopia. Here, he believed he would be surrounded by people who had committed to create the kind of world he aspired to; people with similar beliefs and values.  So, in 1635, at the age of 22, with his father’s eventual blessing and a three-year release from court from the King, he emigrated to New England.

Was it everything he expected it to be?

Young Henry arrived in Boston, Massachusetts on 6 October 1635, one of an estimated 20,000 English people believed to have emigrated to New England in the 1630s. He found a community that was developing rapidly and a mixture of settlers, from devout Puritans to commercial entrepreneurs.  Governance centred around the church and strict Puritan ideals that occasionally clashed with the commercial activity of the new colony. Henry was made welcome; his background and strong convictions held him in good stead, as did his advantageous connections back in England. He quickly settled into Boston life where his social rank and experience of diplomacy were put to use in in resolving disputes and supporting the governance of a growing community. Within a few months he became a freeman of the Massachusetts Corporation; perhaps more surprisingly, he was elected as Governor in May 1636 at the tender age of 23; the highest office in the colony.

Henry quickly established himself as a leader …

The Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was elected annually, and Henry set out to use his diplomatic and administrative experience to create new laws and resolve disputes amongst the colonists. During his short time as Governor, legislation was passed to establish a higher education college in the colony; an institution that would later be named after the wealthy clergyman and benefactor, John Harvard.

…although it wasn’t all plain sailing

But Henry’s passionate conviction (probably combined with his youth and inexperience) resulted in a very challenging term as Governor. Tensions were quickly escalating with the local Native American population for whom the impact of the arrival of the European colonists had many devastating consequences. Within the colony the harmonious Puritan utopia that he had dreamed of was becoming fragmented. The relationship became strained between some of the more orthodox members of the community (characterised by Henry’s deputy, John Winthrop), and others who supported greater religious freedoms, including Henry himself.

 He made friends with people who held “dangerous opinions”

Two of Henry’s close acquaintances from his short time in Massachusetts provide an insight into Henry’s beliefs and personality. Both Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson are important, yet controversial figures in the complex history of early English settlement in the New World.  Their own stories are fascinating but here we look at their relationship with the young Governor.

Roger Williams was an English clergyman with a firm belief in religious freedom. He was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635 for spreading  “new & dangerous opinions”, including a  belief that church and state governance should be kept separate, and for his disapproval of colonists who confiscated land from Native Americans. On leaving Massachusetts, he purchased land from the Narragansett people to establish the Rhode Island Colony, based on principals of religious tolerance. Ten years Henry’s senior, Williams’ conscience-led decisions clearly appealed to the young governor who supported him both in the New World and, later, back in England.

Anne Hutchinson became synonymous with a group known as the Antinomian Party. Her lifelong commitment to the Puritan cause and radical ideas meant that when she arrived in New England she began to push boundaries. Contrary to the norm, she led a Bible Study Group – sometime attracting as many as 80 people, in an age in which women were not permitted to take leadership roles. Her classes were perceived as a threat to some of the more orthodox factions of the colony who feared religious separatism. Henry is known to have attended her groups, no doubt attracted once more by the ideals of religious freedom.

However, Henry was an idealist and his days in New England were numbered

This was a step too far for many in the community who regarded his actions as compromising the position of the Governor. It was one dispute that Henry was unable to resolve and he was pressured to make a choice between his position and his ideals. Unsurprisingly his ideals won out; he attempted to resign as Governor, initially citing pressure to return to England before admitting the conflict between his political and spiritual life. He was persuaded to finish his term, but his former deputy, John Winthrop was elected for the year ahead. Anne was banished from Massachusetts and along with around 30 other families followed Roger Williams to the Rhode Island Colony.

Henry left Massachusetts for England three months later, but not before finally opposing the new Governor ‘s legislation to exclude settlers like his friends who were said to hold ‘dangerous opinions’. His time in New England taught Henry valuable lessons and despite remaining a man of strong conviction, in his later life he attempted to focus on politics rather than spirituality in his public life.

The story of Henry’s later years back in England is equally fascinating, but we will save that for another day

One final note relates to an intriguing item in the castle collections, dating from this period. Pictured here, this little volume titled THE LAWES, RESOLUTIONS OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS OR The Women’s Lawyer.  It was printed in London in 1632 and is the first work devoted exclusively to laws relating to women. It covers diverse topics from marriage to land ownership, wooing to widowhood. We don’t know when the book came to Raby Castle but it is interesting to speculate as to whether it, along with other radical 17th century pamphlets, might have belonged to, or have been read by Henry and in this case,  how much his encounter with Anne Hutchinson in the New World might have kindled an interest in the law and the position of women in particular.

Julie Biddlecombe-Brown

Sources and further reading:

  • Sikes, G., The Life & Death of Sir Henry Vane Kt. 1662
  • A Vindication of that Prudent and Honourable Knight, Sir Henry Vane. London: 1659
  • Hosmer, James K. Sir Henry Vane.  London: 1888
  • Mayers, Ruth E. Vane, Sir Henry the Younger. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, May 2015
  • N. E. Adamova, S. V. Shershneva, Discourse of early migration to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 2017


Sir Henry Vane the Younger. Oil on Canvas. School of Robert Walker (1599-1658) ©Raby Estate


Sir Henry Vane the Younger, commemorated in a statue of 1893 in Boston Public Library. The inscription quotes John Winthrop, who despite their differences describes Henry as “a true friend of New England and a man of noble and generous mind”.


The Lawes, Resolutions of Women’s Rights, or The Women’s Lawyer. London 1632 ©Raby Estate

If you enjoyed this fascinating story from Raby’s past, check out our recent blog on the Grand Entrance Hall at Raby Castle for the Historic Houses Feature Friday campaign.


Raby Castle and High Force Hotel have become among the first tourism venues in the region to receive the Good to Go certification from Visit England in recognition of the measures we have taken to meet government and industry COVID-19 guidelines.

Raby and High Force have been reopening gradually as government advice has been updated during the easing of lockdown, completing comprehensive risk assessments, and putting measures in place to maintain cleanliness and support social distancing.

Our open spaces a Raby Castle and High Force Waterfall were the first to reopen as restrictions eased, with pre-booked visitors returning to enjoy the beautiful summer colour in the Walled Gardens and the far-reaching views in the Deer Park, along with a carefully managed circular walk to the Waterfall at High Force.

The Castle, Stables Café and Woodland Play Area and High Force Hotel reopened on July 4th following further updated guidance. Some facilities will open in a limited capacity and visitors are advised to check the Raby website for the latest information about what’s open.

Claire Jones, Head of Leisure and Tourism at Raby Estates said: “We have taken a very careful, phased approach to reopening our facilities and we are delighted to have received the Good To Go certification, which reflects the work we have done to meet COVID-19 guidelines.

“We want visitors to feel confident about visiting Raby and High Force, and sharing information about the precautions we have taken, so that people know what to expect before they arrive, has been incredibly important.

“Feedback from visitors about how we have reopened, and the information we have shared has been overwhelmingly positive, and it is lovely to see people enjoying our open spaces and beautiful views once again.

You can find out more about the measures we have put in place on the Coronavirus pages on our website, which also include answers to Frequently Asked Questions and a video guide to how we are managing cleanliness and social distancing.

A heady combination of sultry summer weather, lavish garden borders and the welcome reopening of our open spaces following lockdown has brought an incredible response from visitors who enjoyed our two special evening openings of the Park and Gardens in late June.

Photo credit: David Dodds Photography

People of all ages, including young families meeting relatives for the first time since March, and others who had not left their homes for many months, enjoyed social distanced walks in the expansive grounds of the Castle.

Photo credit: David Dodds Photography

Soft music inspired by the natural surroundings, summer scented incense and glowing storm candles in the Walled Gardens created a sense of calm during the two evenings, the first of which was held to mark the Summer Solstice.

A spectacular seasonal floral wreath provided the perfect photo backdrop in the Walled Gardens, and children enjoyed dancing under the ribbons of the wishing tree.  The glorious open space in the Deer Park gave visitors ample room to sit and watch the sun go down over the Castle and to savour the tranquillity of the evening.

Floral wreath by Berry House Flowers

Sophie Brown, from the Raby events team, said she had been overwhelmed by the positive feedback from visitors both during and after the two evening openings.

“The atmosphere was incredibly relaxing and many of the people who came were visiting Raby for the first time, so it was wonderful for them to experience its space and beauty on a summer’s evening,” she said.

“Throughout both evenings, visitors took time to tell us how safe they felt and how much they appreciated having somewhere to come that was so peaceful and special, particularly those who were coming to meet relatives for the first time since lockdown,” she added.

Photo credit: David Grey

The two open evenings were also a fabulous opportunity for photographers to capture the beauty of the park and garden. Here are just some of the amazing images and wonderful comments we have received since the Summer Solstice and Evening in the Park, all of which have been so appreciated by our small and hard-working team:

“We would just like to express our thanks to you for having the vision to open the castle grounds and gardens on Saturday evening.”

“We did not really know what to expect but we had a most enjoyable time and made the most of a beautiful evening in wonderful surroundings.”

“It was so good to be among people after the past 3 months of lockdown and it was noticeable that others were feeling the same. It was particularly pleasing to see families with young children picnicking and enjoying the freedom that the parkland offered.”

“I would like to thank you for the wonderful Summer Solstice Evening we enjoyed in Saturday! The walled garden looked stunning and the music playing was perfect for the occasion.”

“We had an amazing evening on Saturday, thank you so much for opening. So much space and such a tranquil experience. Highly recommended.”

“Thoroughly enjoyed it, had a wonderful night. Really enjoyed the music in the gardens.”

“Absolutely superb evening – thank you! Well organised and very peaceful and relaxed.”

“We had a lovely evening last night. Thank you. It’s the 1st time my parents have been in a public space for over 3 months and they absolutely loved it. A great Father’s Day present. I can’t tell you how much it meant to us as a family as they got to spend some time with their grandson. It was perfect.”

“We had such an amazing evening last night. Can’t recommend it highly enough! Was magical.”

“It really was a lovely night. The atmosphere was so calm and relaxed. It was lovely seeing everyone having a lovely time.”

“A fabulous evening tonight at Raby castle ….loved the extra little touches like the candles and incense in the walled garden along with the music …will come again to an evening walk in the castle grounds ….Thankyou.”

“We really enjoyed our evening visit for the Summer Solstice. It was such a lovely atmosphere; so calm and peaceful. The gardens were beautiful and looked lovely at dusk. The evening was so well organised and it was clear that visitor safety was paramount. Visitor numbers were limited, car parking was really well spaced out and toilets were spotlessly clean. After 3 months of lockdown this was greatly appreciated! Thank you!”

We hope to open for further ‘Summer Lates’ throughout July and August, and will be keeping a close eye on the weather forecast.

To be the first to hear about future Evenings in the Park sign up to our newsletter.

We are delighted to be involved in a fantastic initiative by Historic Houses which is showcasing some of the intriguing features of the nation’s heritage properties.

Feature Fridays takes a different theme each week and explores some of the unique characteristics of buildings up and down the country, along with the fascinating stories behind them.

We have been following the themes and sharing relevant stories and images from Raby Castle, which have been enjoyed by Historic Houses members and followers nationwide.

Here are just some of the Feature Fridays we have been involved in:

Entrances and Exits

The Entrance Hall at Raby Castle was adapted by architect John Carr for the 2nd Earl of Darlington to celebrate the coming-of-age of his heir in 1787. The transformative scheme made it possible for carriages to drive straight through the hall, eliminating the need to turn in the courtyard. This provided an impressive welcome for visitors – and a swift escape from the often inclement weather of the North East! Find out more about the entrance here.


The ‘Wheel of Weapons’ is an impressive display of muskets and other historic firearms in the Entrance Hall at Raby Castle in County Durham. The wheel has been a feature in the Entrance Hall for over a century and is always a talking point for our visitors.

Read more about Weapons at various Historic Houses across the country here.


Hidden in North Wood, in an area not open to the public, the Gateway Folly at Raby Castle is a Grade II listed building. In 1780, the architect John Carr of York was commissioned by the 2nd Duke of Cleveland to make a number of alterations to the castle, including the creation of a drive-through carriageway through the Entrance Hall.

This project involved the demolition of the medieval barbican on the south side of the castle. Elements of the Barbican can still be found in buildings across Raby Park, including the North Wood Folly. Described by a contemporary source in the Raby archives as “a design for a ruined gateway with lodges”, Carr built this curious structure as a screen and incorporated the archway and other fragments of the Barbican in his design.

Read more about Follies at Historic Houses.

Keep an eye out for more fascinating stories like these by following #FeatureFridays and Historic Houses on social media.

Stay up to date with news and events at Raby Castle by signing up to our newsletter

Throughout April and May we have been inviting families to recreate their memories of Raby Castle and High Force Waterfall for our art competition.

We have had some fantastic entries and it has been wonderful to see so much creativity and to hear about the fun everyone has been having crafting, painting and model making.

Raby Castle and High Force Waterfall have been the subject of many famous paintings over the years and we are delighted to have a new selection of masterpieces to share.

We will be announcing the winners soon on our social media channels.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy looking through them as much as we have!


County Durham is home to many magnificent Castles, including Barnard Castle and Raby Castle, which are just a stones throw from one another.

Perched above the river Tees, the remains of the once imposing Barnard Castle, found in the Teesdale market town of the same name, can be seen from the riverbank.

Just a few miles away in Staindrop, is the magnificent Raby Castle, a popular visitor attraction, with extensive walled gardens and deer park. Impressive in their own right, there is much that links these two sites.

Barnard Castle, was built by the Balliol family who were given the land during the upheaval following the Norman Conquest. The castle had a succession of owners before passing into the hands of the Nevill family by marriage in the 15th century. The powerful Nevill family owned nearby Raby Castle among other vast properties and estates. With only seven miles between the two castles, both sites feature prominently in the story of the Wars of the Roses.

Richard Duke of Gloucester (who later became King Richard III) acquired the Lordship by marriage to Anne, the widow of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick (known as ‘the Kingmaker’). Richard had strong associations with County Durham and significant support in the north. His mother Cecily Nevill was born at Raby Castle, and his father Richard Duke of York was brought up there as a ward of the Earl of Westmorland. Barnard Castle became the favourite residence of Richard Duke of Gloucester who had planned to expand and develop the castle after becoming King. His plans never came to fruition as he was killed at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Along with Raby Castle, Barnard Castle remained under the ownership of the Nevill family until 1569 when their lands and property were confiscated by the Crown after the failed ‘Rising of the North’; a plot to dethrone the protestant Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with her Roman Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. Both castles remained the property of the Crown until they were sold to the courtier and MP, Sir Henry Vane the Elder in 1626. After this time, Barnard Castle, was gradually abandoned as a residence.

Raby Castle is one of the most intact castles in the North of England. Its completeness is of national significance as a largely single-phase structure, with one twelfth century survival (Bulmer’s Tower). Some of the stonework from Barnard Castle is thought to have been re-used in alterations and extensions at Raby. Writing in 1870 the Duchess of Cleveland’s Handbook for Raby Castle notes that an old inventory taken in 1593, describes Barnard Castle as “… bare of all furniture, and some of the locks of the doors carried away to Raby”. It would be fascinating to research whether these glimpses of Barnard Castle incorporated in Raby Castle can be traced.

The collections at Raby Castle also show many links with Barnard Castle. This little watercolour of Barnard Castle by an unknown artist shows the charming views of Barnard Castle that can be seen from the riverside, giving a sense of how impressive the original structure would have been.

The painting is displayed in one of the rooms at Raby Castle that visitors can experience as part of the ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour. Although the castle is currently closed, we look forward to welcoming visitors to find out more about the links between the two castles when we reopen to the public.

For more information subscribe to our newsletter.


While we’re staying at home we’ve been using our imaginations to escape on exciting adventures, exploring Castles, meeting Knights and Princesses, and encountering fearsome Dragons along the way. Here we share 5 of our favourite Castle inspired stories:


The Castle Mice by Michael Bond (Author), Emily Sutton (Illustrator)

This is one of our favourites! This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of the Perk family, a family of mice who live in a much-loved dolls house inside a Castle. Mr and Mrs Perk love living in the Castle with their 13 children, and their lives seem perfect, until one day the children decide to do a spot of spring cleaning which doesn’t quite go to plan. Don’t forget to see if you can find the Castle Mice in our interactive image on Facebook this May Half Term.


The Knight who said NO! by Lucy Rowland (Author), Kate Hindley (Illustrator)

Young Knight Ned is a lovely boy who always does exactly as he’s told, until one day when a strange feeling comes over him. This is a great story, particularly for little ones – it’s about finding friendship, understanding emotions and feeling a bit cross, and how doing good things can help you feel brighter.


The Cook and the King  by Julia Donaldson  (Author), David Roberts (Illustrator)

We love a good Julia Donaldson story, and her books are often used as inspiration for our popular story trails. From the author of The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and the Snail and the Whale, comes the story of a hungry, and rather fussy King and his search for someone who can cook his food just the way he likes it. Cue Wobbly Bob, a hapless chef who’s scared of everything! But maybe he’s not quite as clueless as he makes out?


Sir Lilypad

by Anna Kemp (Author), Sara Ogilvie (Illustrator)

Sir Lilypad is the delightful tale of a small frog with big ambitions. Lilypad dreams of being a fierce brave knight but finds that no one seems to take him seriously. If only he could find a princess willing to give him a kiss!


The Princess and the Peas

by Caryl Hart  (Author), Sarah Warburton (Illustrator)

Lily-Rose May refuses to eat her peas.  Her Dad tries everything to get her to eat them but nothing works – fortunately the doctor knows just what to do. When Lily is diagnosed with Princess-itis, there’s nothing for it but for the little girl to go and live in the palace. But living the life of a princess might not be all it’s cracked up to be! This great rhyming story has a ‘book within a book’, and is great for anyone who doesn’t like eating their greens.


Why not have a go at writing your own Castle story for our story competition? Find out more

We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we have – we look forward to reading these and other stories with you when our Story Time sessions in the Stables Café resume.

Sign up to get the latest news about our activities and events for children and families.

What better way to get to know more about local sights, scenery, history and wildlife than by downloading our fun family activity sheets?

Discover fascinating facts about Raby’s majestic Deer and Upper Teesdale’s graceful Curlews, test your observation skills with our Waterfall Wordsearch and have fun colouring in some of the familiar places and creatures of County Durham.

Our activity sheets are free to download. Simply click on the image to download it in PDF format.

We’d love you to share the link to this page with friends and family.

If you would like to be kept up to date with news, events and activities from Raby Castle and High Force you can sign up to our newsletter here.

We’d love to see pictures of your own creations. Share them with us on Facebook.


Raby Deer Activity Sheet (click image to download)


Curlew Activity Sheet (click image to download)


Waterfall Wordsearch (click image to download)

As the use of carriages increased from the late 17th Century, the Grand Entrance Hall at Raby Castle underwent a major transformation.  In this Feature Focus, our curator Julie Biddlecombe-Brown shares the stories of visitors arriving at Raby’s Grand Entrance, and how this magnificent arrival at Raby Castle has been featured in recent filming at Raby Castle.

Raby is surely one of the most impressive intact castles in the North of England. Situated near the village of Staindrop in County Durham it was built in the 14th century by the powerful Nevill family. Originally moated and accessed via a drawbridge, the Castle was built as a palace fortress.

The Nevills lived at Raby until 1569 when, after the failure of the Rising of the North, the Castle and its lands were forfeited to the Crown. In 1626, Sir Henry Vane the Elder, Member of Parliament and important member of Charles I’s household, purchased Raby from the Crown. The Vane family still own Raby, the present owner being the 12th Lord Barnard.

Today the stables, coach house, coach and carriage collection are popular with visitors, providing a snapshot of life before the advent of the combustion engine. Before railways, travelling to Raby Castle from London could take four days, with horses being changed every twenty miles. The unpredictable weather of the north-east and the varied condition of the road network meant that long journey could be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. Visiting the castle in the late 1700s the dramatist George Colman recalled;

“… it rained heavily and incessantly, and we had met with delay, and petty accidents, and vexations, at every turn. In the last seven miles, after sunset, a fog arose; one of the horses cast a shoe, and his rider dismounted to grope for it in the mud and in the dark…  we were chilly, hungry, impatient, comfortless, sitting dinnerless in a post-chaise, and waiting the issue of a hunt after a horse-shoe”.

His arrival was a decidedly more cheerful experience as the chaise entered the Castle’s impressive Entrance Hall. Originally a medieval structure, it was adapted by architect John Carr for the 2nd Earl of Darlington to celebrate the coming-of-age of his heir in 1787.

Pevsner describes this alteration to the building as “an unorthodox transformation”. It was driven by the development and increasing use of carriages from the late-17th century. These vehicles had become too large to turn in the castle’s medieval inner courtyard. Rather than enlarge the courtyard, Carr adopted a “drive-through” approach, thereby eliminating the need for turning space. To do this, he created a carriageway that ran right through the Castle’s Grand Entrance Hall, exiting through a gateway below the Chapel. His scheme resulted in significant alterations to the 14th century building; the Barbican was demolished and additional height was achieved in the Entrance Hall by raising the floor of the first-floor Chapel and Barons’ Hall. On the ground floor, Carr created a vaulted ceiling supported by stunning octagonal scagliola pillars.

This transformative scheme made it possible for carriages to drive straight through the hall, eliminating the need to turn in the courtyard and providing an impressive welcome. Picking up on Coleman’s account;

“As we passed through the outer gateway of the Castle the vapour was dense upon the moat, and we were enveloped in the night-fog … but, lo! On the opening of a massive door, a gleam of light flashed upon us: crack went the whips, as we dashed forward at full trot, and in a moment drew up, not to a piazza, nor a vestibule, nor a flight of steps in a cold courtyard, but before a huge blazing fire in a spacious hall. The magical effect of this sudden transition, from destitution to luxury, has never occurred to me anywhere else…”.

His wonder at this lavish and unexpected welcome was echoed by Sally Stevenson. The wife of the American Ambassador was the guest and a good friend of 1st Duke and Duchess of Cleveland. Writing in 1838 she describes,

“…astonished travellers find themselves in a magnificent Gothic Hall, the carriage way passes immediately through it, the roof of which is arched and supported by 6 pillars – on each side of the carriage way … there are two fire-places, and when the Hall is lighted up by 4 large and brilliant chandeliers.

… The carriages & horses with innumerable liveried servants, headed up by the groom of the Chambers, the lights, the splendour and above all the novelty is quite bewildering and makes on almost fancy themselves in an enchanted castle”.

The alterations to provide the ultimate arrival experience were less popular with one of Raby Castle’s later residents. Writing about the Entrance Hall alterations in 1860, the 4th Duchess of Cleveland quips,

“I have said more than enough of the holy horror with which I regard tampering with ancient buildings” although she does concede, “It is such a hospitable welcome to all-comers”.

Raby Castle’s unique entrance was recreated in recent years when the Castle served as a location for filming. In 2016 the ITV television series Victoria saw carriages delivering ‘royal guests’ to the Entrance Hall once more, including actress Jenna Coleman in the title role, experiencing a similar welcome to her 18th century namesake.

Julie Biddlecombe-Brown


©Peter Atkinson Photography

The Entrance to Raby Castle through the impressive 14th Century Nevill Gateway led to a small inner courtyard with insufficient space to turn the increasingly impressive coaches and carriages of the 18th century. Rather than enlarge the courtyard, a ‘drive-through’ approach was adopted by the 2nd Earl of Darlington’s architect, John Carr.


©Raby Estates

The Entrance Hall today still provides a warm welcome for visitors. Here the State Coach built for the Duke of Cleveland c.1810-20 utilised the ‘drive through’ arrangement.


©Raby Estates

The Entrance Hall at Raby Castle depicted in a watercolour of 1858 shows comfortable carpet runners and a roaring fire to welcome visitors.

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As government guidance develops, we hope to gradually and safely re-open our facilities for the enjoyment of visitors. Click HERE to read our latest update.